by Jarrod Day
Last week we looked at Part 1 of targeting Large Albacore and this week we take a look into the tackle and tactics required to be successful.
Green lures are deadly on albies.
Tuna tackle is generally set in two standards for trolling. Either a 24kg outfit or 15kg outfit knocks most fish over in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, at Portland there is always the element of catching a XOS blue fin tuna, some of which can exceed 100 kilos and with albacore in the 25+kg range about, 15kg tackle can be a real challenge for many recreational anglers. In my mind, a 25kg albacore will out fight the same size blue fin and while the initial run is something to contend with, the dog fight boat side is where the light tackle can be the challenge.
Unless you want that challenging battle, it is probably better to stick to a 24kg outfit. Some anglers prefer a 15/24kg rod in this instance as the soft tip aids in absorbing the head shakes and tail beats making the fight a little more enjoyable.
The holy grail of albie fishing, two fish over 40lb's.
Those wanting to just get the fish into the boat prefer the stiffness of a 24kg rod which will contain a stronger butt section and subsequently give the angler more dead lift power when dogging it out. Reels on the other hand can be of any brand but it is imperative that they hold enough line should you hook a solid fish.
On the initial strike, a tuna will run deep with the lure peeling at least a hundred meters or so of line from the spool. Should a fish be larger than normal you can expect the spool to diminish very quickly. Most suitable reels hold around 600 meters of 24kg line so you can leave them in the holder while continuing to drive another 50 meters of so to gain a multiple hook up.
If you’re lucky enough to have albacore on the surface, which is a rare sighting as it is mainly blue fin that do this, you can always cast lure to them. Catching a tuna on a surface popper or stickbait can be really get the knees trembling but for this you will require a more specialised approach. Spin reels that hold 300 meters of 80lb braid around about standard while 7’6'-8’ casting rods are specially designed for this style of fishing.
Lure choice is critical when it comes to albacore and while the lures don’t differ much from lure set for blue fin or other tuna’s there is a slight difference.
Albacore favour lures that range form 4' to 6' and while the length is an important factor, it is the colour that has the most impact. Albacore, for some reason unknown are drawn to lures that contain a lot of sparkle on the skirts. The shinier the colours the more effective they are. In saying that, other anglers report success with similar skirts although in other parts of the globe, it has been written that lures with jet heads or those that produce a bubble trail have been more effective on albies.
A selection of the authors most favoured albacore lures.
Here in Portland, my success has fallen to those skirts that are sparkly, but for head design they have been small pushers. Hard body lures are also effective and while there is a huge range available, those that have diving depths from 7-9 meters in a green colour seem to be most favoured in the spread.
Catching big albies consistently is difficult but if you know where they are, you should manage a good selection.
There are many different ways anglers can catch tuna but the most common is to troll lures. Trolling lures successfully is a combination of a spread of lures in conjunction of knowing where feeding fish will be. Once these two are in place it is then all down to working the area until the fish take the lures.
Trolling is a highly effective technique to allow anglers to use a variety of lures to entice the fish, yet because you’re constantly moving you are able to keep up with the school as it moves.
When you come across a school of albacore and one of your rods hooks up, an angler’s first instinct is to stop the boat so to play out the fish. While doing this maybe fun for one angler, those others on the boat have to sit back and watch the entertainment.
On the immediate hook-up or when a rod loads, it is a good idea to save a waypoint in your GPS. This will give you a location to troll back to and around considering there are fish there. While the reel is howling, it is best to keep driving for another 50 meters or so or slow down to let the other skirts sink slowly, then power off for another 50 meters. Most of the time you will gain another hook-up by doing this, which will allow everyone else on the boat to get in on the action. Slowing down to allow the lures to sink a little can initiate a second or third hook-up as the fish see the lures as become vulnerable and strike them.
Once the fish are brought in and you have already GPS marked the original location of the first hook-up you can go back to that area.
Using the correct tactics can lead to captures of XOS albacore.
When working an area it is best to trolling a zig zag motion bring the lures in all directions.
When baitfish swim in schools they don’t swim straight and nether should your lures be trolled in that manner.
Tuna are a classic species for taking lures in one direction and to find that you will have to work the area and double back over the same track if you’re confident fish are within in the area. Tuna favour lures in a particular direction mainly due to the speed in which the lure is travelling and the action it is portraying.
Once you work this out, each time you pass an area in the same direction you will notice that you get continuous hook-ups while in the opposite direction nothing.
Another thing to note with albacore is that they are particularly fond of a tight lure spread. Many anglers that hit the blue water tend to use outriggers to get more lures into the spread. When it comes to albacore, lures spreads that are tighter together always have more success than those setting the spread wider with outriggers.
Set the spread:
A typical tuna spread generally contains five lures although with albacore the more you can manage the better. Ideally, the most successful spread will consist of two deep diving lures which are placed within five meters of motor. Positioning bibbed lures at this location will force the maximum pressure onto the bib sending it to its maximum depth.
Situated just above these should be two skirts on either side of the boat. Each one needs to be two meters behind the other so when the boat turns, they do not tangle. These two should be placed into roller trollers attached to the rear of the boat. Roller trollers are designed to keep the two lines down low so other lines don’t tangle with them as well as creating a short drop back for when a fish hits. When this happens, the line will go slack just enough for the fish to engulf the lure, the line will snap out of the roller troller then comes taught setting the hook. This all happens in mere seconds but is highly effective.
Busting tuna is a clear sign they are about.
A further five meters behind these skirts should be another two with the rods lures placed into rod riggers. Rod riggers are similar to outriggers but only use the length of the rod to spread out the lures. While outriggers are a no go, rod riggers don’t spread the lures too wide rather they will sit just outside the rest of the spread but the lures will be spread just wide enough to keep the entire spread to look like a tight bait school on the surface.
The last two lures are placed right out the back at around 15 meters from the transom. These rods are placed into the rocket launcher totally out of the way of all the other rods. They get the name 'shotgun' and are usually the first to go when driving over a school of albacore.
While this may sound confusing, when the trap is set initially, it is quite easy to manage with a little experience. Remember though, when you do get a hook-up or a multiple hook-up it pays to clear all the other rods. When you do so, wind them in as fast as you can. Quite often by doing this you may get another fish take a lure.
Trolling for tuna is a lot of fun especially in Victoria but if you can separate yourself from blue fin and focus more on specifically targeting Albacore you’ll soon find a pattern to the code.